Feed Scarborough wins Toronto Community Champion Award

Award celebrates elebrates how people and community organizations supported each other

Feed Scarborough's storefront
Store front view of Feed Scarborough Cliffside food bank. The organization won a Toronto Community Champion award for its work during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ireland Fidale/Toronto Observer) 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when people couldn’t visit food banks due to lockdowns and health restrictions, Feed Scarborough supported its neighbourhood’s most vulnerable residents by doing their grocery shopping and opening a food bank. Now it is being honoured for its efforts by winning a Toronto Community Champion Award.

“It makes us as an organization feel that we are needed,” said Suman Roy, Feed Scarborough’s executive director.

“It gives strong motivation to our volunteer team, and our staff. If it was just an award that the city would have chosen to give us would have been great, but it being nominated by the community makes it even more special.”

The award is offered through the city’s Stronger TOgether program, which celebrates how people and community organizations supported each other during the pandemic.

Feed Scarborough, which at the time was a small community organization, stepped in to fill a vital need when the community’s only food bank closed its doors on March 16, 2020.

Roy and other members started grocery shopping to feed around 25 families. They saw there was a much greater need, however, and put out a social media call to see how many people needed support.

“Within less than 24 hours, we had over 1,000 people reach out to us across Scarborough,” Roy said in an interview. “Then we started reaching out to Daily Bread, Second Harvest and FoodShare and saying, ‘Okay, what can you guys do to help?’”

Pandemic regulations pushed Feed Scarborough to find new ways to support the community. People were being encouraged to stay home, social distance, and avoid large crowds, something regular food banks often entail.

“We initially started off with around 250 volunteers who used to volunteer every week. They come in their cars, we used to pack hampers, load their cars, give them a sheet of paper, and they used to go drop off in people’s houses,” said Roy.

From there, Feed Scarborough started opening food banks around the community. They became the first, and still the only food bank to provide an online shopping system. This provides aid to those with mobility issues, single parents, tight schedules, and more.

“In my riding of Scarborough – Rouge Park, the Feed Scarborough community grocery store provides accessible and barrier-free service which allows guests to select foods and produce that aligns with their dietary, cultural, and personal preference,” Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said by email.

“I am thankful for the exemplary efforts of Founder Chef Suman Roy, and the many volunteers who support the Feed Scarborough initiative for the work they do each and every day.”

Read more from the Toronto Observer:

Roy, who previously ran for city council in Scarborough Southwest, saw the inequities that existed in his community when he was campaigning door to door. That’s what led him to found Feed Scarborough in 2018. The organization started by handing out holiday hampers.

“Scarborough is an area within the city that encompasses a range of low-income residents who encounter challenges when it comes to accessing food. Food is an essential need, and Feed Scarborough is a valuable organization that ensures individuals have access to food donations,” said Anika Munir, a fourth-year student at the University of Toronto.

She selected Feed Scarborough as her charity to raise funds for through the Battle of the Department Student Association, an initiative put forward by the University of Toronto Scarborough student union to encourage each department to raise money for a charity of their choice.

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Posted: Apr 17 2023 11:36 am
Filed under: Community work COVID-19 News